The anchorage where almost all boats in the Bahamas eventually end up has many names. “Elizabeth Harbour” is the actual body of water. “Stocking Island” is the long skinny stretch of land next to which most of the boats settle in, but almost everyone knows it by one moniker – “Georgetown.” Cruisers also refer to it as “Chicken Harbor,” because so many sailors reach it with dreams of exploring the rest of the world, but never venture further. The town proper is a large settlement on the west side of the harbor that has long acted as the backbone of the visiting cruiser community.
Almost everything you need can be found there, including free water and a very well stocked grocery store, and if you can’t find it, you can easily have it shipped in. That alone makes it easy to fathom why many boaters return year after year, for months at a time. Add to that the seemingly unending amount of activities organized daily to inform and entertain said boaters, and you can quickly comprehend why this place is so highly regarded by young and old, newbies and old-salts alike. Hikes, snorkeling, volleyball, seminars, races, yoga, water aerobics, trivia and poker nights, LOTS of sundowner parties…there’s something for everyone.
All these activities are announced every morning on the VHF radio “Cruisers’ Net.” This unofficial radio net is maintained by and for cruisers to share info, ask for help, get local knowledge, announce your arrival and departure, and even acts as a boaters’ swap meet.
We had the pleasure of spending over two weeks exploring the town and the surrounding waters. We knew we’d like the place right away when, after less than hour at anchor, we were approached by two different couples who had been directed to find us upon arrival. Tim and Leslie on s/v Fiesta, are mutual friends of Hayden and Radeen on s/v Island Spirit, the super-couple that helped us with our unfortunate dinghy situation. Tim and Leslie invited us to be their partners at trivia night the following evening and we made a great team, coming in second place and winning four bottles of wine!
Then, Jerry and Donna on s/v Blue Jacket stopped by. This was a particular surprise because they were sent over by our boat’s previous owners, Tom and Joyce. Apparently, they had been reading our blog and knew we were heading to Georgetown, and told their friends to look us up and say hello. The sailing community just keeps getting smaller! We met lots of new friends while in Georgetown that we hope to run into down island.
Making our time in Georgetown even more enjoyable was the arrival of my dad and bonus mom, who spent a week with us delighting in all this area has to offer. For their first three days and nights they stayed at a hotel across from where we were anchored. On the charts, the 2-mile dinghy ride over to their side of the harbor seemed like an easy jaunt. However, the 25-knot gusting winds that blew into town shortly before they did made for a bumpy, sopping wet ride home to Pura Vida each evening. Only on the last night were we able to relocate to be closer to their hotel, but even then we got a good soaking. Still, after seven months away, it was all worth it to spend time with them each day.
Their last three nights were spent onboard with us, and they handled life onboard like pros! A sail in rough waters, bumps and bruises, tight quarters with little privacy, saltwater baths instead of freshwater showers, Bahamian beer – there were no complaints. In fact, I’m pretty sure they had a great time!
Finally, the winds died down, so John-Michael and I tried our best to wear them out, dragging them along on hikes to the beach, long walks in the surf through sand up to our ankles and, of course, snorkeling.
We managed to find a site that was shallow, warm and clear, and they proclaimed it the best snorkeling they’d done to date. Score! The best part of the whole week was hearing that they were comfortable enough in our floating home to come back and stay with us again. We understand that life on a sailboat – even for only a week – is not everyone’s cup of tea, so this was fantastic news.
Their departure came way too soon, but they know their cabin awaits whenever they are ready for another relaxing vacation.
After our goodbyes, John-Michael and I headed in to town to stock up on food and booze in preparation for our next passage. We had to wait a day to head out because one of our propane tanks was empty and couldn’t be filled until the following morning. Unlike back home, propane fills are not so simple. On a specific day of the week at a pre-appointed time, a man drives a large propane truck to a dusty parking lot by the water’s edge where cruisers form a long line waiting their turn to get a fill. This event, like all island things, can be thwarted if the supply boat fails to arrive to fill the propane truck on schedule.
Being delayed a day gave us a chance to finally finish the large shade I’d made months earlier. All it needed was snaps, but what a pain in the ass that job was!
Postponing our exit also gave us the chance to offload a large piece of unused equipment. We heard a call on the morning cruisers’ net from someone looking to purchase a kayak. Our enormous two-person kayak had sit pretty much in one spot on our deck for the last seven months, making it impossible to get to the front of our boat on that side.
It was too heavy for one person to lower or raise, and, as such, was not used by us even once since we left New Orleans. We were happy to sell it for use on a charter boat, where I’m sure it will get a lot more splash time.
The next day it was time to go! We took our time making our way to Long Island, because as soon as we were out of Elizabeth Harbour we were able to fish again. (Spearfishing in the harbor is off-limits.) We spent a day spearfishing at nearby Hog Cay, and nabbed a grouper, a snapper, three lionfish, and a crab.
Nothing like fresh seafood for dinner! After a perfect 20-mile sail east, we arrived at Salt Pond, Long Island, the launching point for all of the Bahamas out islands, where we hope to spend a few more months. This island group boasts the best scuba diving, snorkeling, and spearfishing in the entire country, and after several months of unseasonable windy weather and cold water, it looks like things are starting to shape up for some underwater fun. I apologize in advance if for the next few weeks you see an overabundance of pictures of speared fish and underwater scenery on our Facebook Page.